Q. With Ramadan coming, I was thinking about cooking some Arabian dishes and hosting an Iftar at home. What’s the best to try? Joss, The Springs
A. There are so many amazing iftars to enjoy during Ramadan (my favourites include the Ritz-Carlton, Jumeirah Beach Hotel and Madinat Jumeirah) but I think it’s fabulous you want to try one at home. To make it as simple as possible, I would recommend going for mezze-style dishes so everyone can tuck in. Get big bowls of hummus, tabbouleh, moutabel and labneh (buy them fresh from supermarket delis or the legendary Wafi Gourmet to save yourself the hassle). Set them all out on the table and serve with bowls of fresh rocket and pickles. For a lovely centrepiece, try piling up fresh whole tomatoes (in different shapes and colours – Waitrose has a great selection) and stick fresh herbs, like mint or basil, in between. Serve with falafel (check out my easy recipe) and hot breads (get a selection from plain pita to cheese/zaatar manakish) straight from the oven.
Make It Now: Falafel
Whether you’re serving them for iftar, or looking for a healthy alternative for lunch, this quick and easy falafel recipe is done in just 10 minutes.
In a food processor with the knife blade attached, finely chop 4 spring onions, 2 garlic cloves, a large handful of fresh parsley and 2 teaspoons of mint. Add a can of chickpeas, a tablespoon of breadcrumbs, a teaspoon each of coriander, cumin and baking powder, finally a pinch each of salt, ground red pepper and allspice. Blend until a coarse purée forms.
Shape the mixture into falafel-sized balls, place on a baking sheet and coat both sides with olive oil spray.
Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat (add more olive oil if needed). Cook the falafel, turning once, until they all take on a dark golden-brown colour. Transfer onto a paper towel to soak up any excess oil before serving.
Store Cupboard Essential: Tinned Crab
This month I’ve had a little bit of a seafood awakening thanks to Marks & Spencer’s tinned crabmeat.
When it comes to ideas for cold crab, try mixing it cold with a spoonful of mayonnaise, a touch of fish sauce and some sesame oil and coriander and pop it on a blini for a mini cold canapé.
Hot crab is my favourite, and I’ve tried out two amazing ways to serve it. The first is an omelette (perfect when you need something quick and easy). Firstly, in a frying pan, cook some spring onion and chilli (if you fancy) in sesame oil. Whisk together a couple of eggs and add a tin of crabmeat, pour into the frying pan and cook through. Add some coriander at the end.
If you have a bit more time, you can make a delicious light sauce to go with pasta. Start with some spring onion and lots of garlic in a pan. Add some grated lemon peel and the juice of half a lemon,and then the crab meat. Turn down the heat and add two tablespoons of crème fraîche, some fresh rocket and lots of salt and pepper. Finally add the cooked pasta and serve.
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Katie Heskett is the Editor in Chief of Good Housekeeping Middle East, available now at all good book stores and magazine outlets. Follow her on Twitter @katieheskett.